Demand for business may come and go, but maintaining the drive for success is vital. For Pro Roof Steel Merchants, that ambition originated in the shape of a young school boy. Nearly forty years later, Rafik Mohamed’s entrepreneurial spirit, realised at a tender age, has blossomed into a business that truly helps to put a roof over the heads of people.
Having tended to his sick parents, Mohamed eventually took over his father’s hardware store, having immersed himself in his father’s ideologies:
“One of the fundamental lessons he taught me was that your name is your most valuable asset. You can make money, you can lose it and you can make it again but if you lose your name you’ve lost it all. And I built my business on that fundamental lesson and I’ve never looked back,” he stated.
It did not take the fledgling entrepreneur long to recognise the demand for roof sheeting and the seeds were quickly sown on the concept of running a roof sheeting manufacturing business. Having secured sufficient funding, Pro Roof Steel became a reality in 1988:
“I was the driver, the manufacturer, the machine operator, the order taker, the accountant, the receptionist: I was everything in the business,” he recalled.
Today the business has grown to become one of the largest manufacturers of roofing solutions in South Africa. The three most common and popular roofing profiles (Corrugated, IBR, Widespan) used in the roofing industry worldwide, are manufactured in-house at the company’s various service and steel processing centres in South Africa.
The company has put a strong emphasis on skills and empowerment of its staff, which has played an important part in helping to grow the business.
In all, the company operates six service and steel processing centres, which provide a number of value added services as well as manufacturing various roofing accessories commonly used in conjunction with the three most widely used profiles.
The Corrugated Profile (S-Rib) is the oldest and most widely used profile for roofing and cladding applications. Pro Roof Steel currently manufactures the corrugated sheeting in two sizes: 8.5 and 10.5 corrugations and the product can successfully be factory cranked, curved and bullnosed to a wide range of radii to suit customer specifications.
Over the years the Inverted Box Rib (IBR) Profile has become a hugely popular option for roofing and side cladding application in the industrial, commercial and residential building sector.
Pro Roof Steel also manufactures the Widespan Profile, a product aimed at offering the construction industry a slightly cheaper alternative to IBR.
With all three profiles, Pro Roof steel is able to offer a range of bespoke services, adding value with its capabilities to bullnose, curve and crank the sheeting. The company also manufactures a range of roofing accessories including roll top ridging, while for the IBR and Widespan sheeting manufacturing capabilities include the supply of closure and ridging to customer requirement, all of which can be delivered in galvanised and painted finish.
The company also supplies a product called Pro Lok: a broad shoulder concealed fix clipping, which is again available in galvanised and colour coated materials and is particularly useful when the roof slope is less than a 5 degree angle.
The Pro Roof Steel Merchants’ name has become associated with fabricating universal columns and beams, thanks to the purchase of a fully-automated, modern welded beam line. The company has the capabilities to manufacture beams and columns to the following specifications: 300WA, 350WA, grade 50B and corten material.
The welded beam technology has added another string to Pro Roof Steel’s bow and helps to get that much valued name into the conscience of a diverse range of customer needs including building and construction, fabrication, mechanical manufacturing, overhead cranes, truck, container and trailer manufacturing, roadside guardrails and marine vessel construction.
The welded beam can be significantly lighter (as much as 30 per cent) than hot rolled beams, resulting in a client cost saving, whilst lead times and labour costs also tend to be less, given the lightweight properties of the welded product.
In addition to the above products, the company has manufactured a number of fence, gate and post items since 1998, primarily for agricultural use, builder’s merchants, fencing and security contractors and the mining industry and makes a range of hot rolled structural tubing and cold formed open sections as well as a number of high quality flat and long product, including plates and coils, via its various service and steel processing centres.
Mohamed’s venture today is one built on strong principles and relationships. He recalled how reputation played a key role in establishing the business: “The supply of building materials is dominated by the Indian community, so I had a strong customer base I could call on. By word of mouth I was able to make a breakthrough in my own community and they gave me the support I needed. My growth rates were phenomenal over the first 10 years, on average we were growing between 35 per cent and 40 per cent a year.
“I established myself by selling goods at minimal margins and developed a marked reputation within the steel industry. The credit lines to buy my machinery were given to me purely based on my honesty and integrity – the level of which fundamentally till today drives my success.”
The business began to diversify from roof sheeting when Mohamed saw the potential to expand into a fully fledged steel merchant and manufacturer in the lower-end market. Low-cost housing has presented Pro Roof Steel Merchants with enormous demand and helped to further develop its growth.
In 1994 the business expanded its Vereeniging operation by acquiring cut to length and slitting lines with further investment in 1997 when the company commissioned its cold formed sections plant.
In 1998 the company began to export its products and a year later it established its Cape Town facility, with the first acquisitions of tube mills taking place along the way, further increasing the capabilities of Pro Roof Steel Merchants.
With a successful business, built on the teachings of his father and firm morals, Pro Roof Steel Merchants was nominated for the 2009 Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Awards in the category of Best Entrepreneur. Such accolades are bestowed on exceptional performance and in the case of Rafik Mohamed, an exceptional story.
“Low-cost housing – that’s where our core focus is. I don’t think in the next 20 years they’ll be done with housing – and that’s where our growth comes from,” he predicted.